Exercise and nutrition scientist Kathleen Alleaume has some simple suggestions for beating the holiday bloat – without setting foot in a gym.
While the holidays are traditionally a time to relax and enjoy a treat or two, it’s easy to end up with a slightly tighter waistband come January 1.
But there are ways to fight the bulge without sacrificing holiday cheer. By keeping in mind what level and kind of activity it takes to work off your average holiday indulgence, you can keep the extra kilos at bay – and still enjoy some treats!
The facts on burning off what you eat
We’ve all heard the facts… our weight is dependent on the balance of kilojoules consumed versus kilojoules burned. Take in more kilojoules than your body needs, and you gain weight. Take in less and you lose weight. There are a few things that affect how much energy your body uses over the course of a day – the main two being your activity levels and your metabolism.
Metabolism refers to the process your body goes through to convert the kilojoules from food into energy to keep itself running. Simply put, the more your body burns while keeping itself going, the faster your metabolism. However, figuring out your energy balance is not an exact science, as there are other factors that influence how many kilojoules you need each day.
These include: body surface area (i.e. your height and weight), age (your energy needs decrease with age), inherited metabolism, and gender (men generally have a faster metabolism).
While you cannot control factors like your age, genetics or gender – all of which may affect how fast your metabolism runs – you can control the amount of exercise you do. While regular physical activity influences your body weight by burning kilojoules, it also helps boost metabolism by building muscle and making your body more efficient at burning fat, even while resting.
However, if you’ve fallen out of your regular exercise routine (or are waiting to start a routine as part of your New Year’s resolution!) the table opposite shows you easy ways to help burn off some of your holiday indulgences.
Of course, everyone is different – for all the reasons mentioned above. This is only a guide, but it will give you a good idea of what you need to do.
We do the sums – how to work off holiday treats
2 glasses of white wine (150ml each) = 912kJ
Exercise: Crank up some tunes and give the house a good clean for about 90 minutes.
3 slices of pork with crackling = 1916kJ
Exercise: Get up a little earlier for a 35-minute bike ride before breakfast.
1 fruit mince pie (70g) = 1403kJ
Exercise: A brisk 75-minute walk will work off this treat.
1 slice pudding with brandy sauce (100g) = 1168kJ
Exercise: Turn off your leaf blower, pick up a rake and manual clippers, and enjoy 70 minutes of gardening.
1 packet of crisps (100g) = 2040kJ
Exercise: A 40-minute run is what it takes to offset this savoury treat.
2 schooners of beer (425ml each) = 1368kJ
Exercise: Head down to the beach or local pool and swim for 45 minutes, taking short breaks.
Note: Kilojoules burned are estimated and based on a person (male or female) weighing 70kg.
Four ways to burn more energy
These simple suggestions will keep your metabolism boosted for longer periods of time.
Think of movement as an opportunity to move more, not a time-wasting inconvenience. Aim to reduce sedentary time and up the ante on everyday activities, like taking the stairs, standing instead of sitting, parking further away from your destination and walking the dog!
2. Move quickly and often
Take yourself off cruise control and get in the habit of doing all of your daily activities and chores with more speed and energy than you usually do. For example, speed up your walking pace or do your house chores in record time.
3. Try new activities
If you do the same activity every day, the muscles eventually adapt and your body doesn’t have to work as hard (hence, fewer kilojoules burned). Switch around your activities, or try a different activity once a week, to avoid this pitfall. For example, take advantage of the warmer weather by going to your local park to exercise for a change, or plan holidays built around fun activities such as canoeing, snorkelling, hiking, cycling, horse riding, abseiling... the list is endless.
4. Get fidgety
As silly as it may seem, fidgeting increases the number of kilojoules you burn during the day. Fidgeting can be anything from tapping your feet, to dancing, to constantly changing your seated position. Little actions make a huge difference, so try and implement more into your lifestyle!